If you are a tenant in Maine, you may be under the impression that your landlord cannot evict you in the winter. While many landlords are more lenient and try to work with you until spring arrives, they are not legally obligated to wait until winter is over to evict you. There are very specific rules and regulations governing eviction in Maine. Understanding how and when you can legally be evicted helps you protect your family and prevents unpleasant surprises.

Lease Agreement

If you have a lease agreement with your landlord, both of you are bound by the terms spelled out in the agreement. As long as you do not violate those terms, which includes paying your rent on time, you cannot be evicted from your apartment or home. If you violate the terms of the lease, referred to as materially breaching the lease, your landlord can issue a 7-Day Notice to Quit and take you to court to force an eviction. This means you will be legally forced to vacate your apartment within 7 days. If the reason for the eviction is late or past due rent, the notice must inform you of the amount you owe and give you the opportunity to pay the amount in full before the court date. A landlord can issue an eviction notice if you are more than 7 days overdue with your rent payments.

Unless the terms of your lease indicate that it is automatically renewable, your landlord can choose not to renew the lease for no reason. The notice required depends on the stipulations in the lease. If the lease does not address notices in the event of non-renewal, you landlord must go to court to seek and eviction within 7 days of the end of your lease term.

Tenants at Will

If you pay your rent on a month-to-month basis and do not have a lease agreement, you are considered a tenant at will. Tenants at will can be evicted with a 7-day notice, if they fail to pay their rent on time, cause a nuisance, participate in illegal activities, cause damage to the property or otherwise interfere with the comfort of other tenants. They can also be evicted with a 30-day notice for no reason. The notice must be in writing and give you a full 30 days to move out, says Pine Tree Legal Assistance.  If your rent is due on the Jan. 1, your landlord must give you a 30-day notice by Dec. 1, if he wants you out by Jan. 1. You'll need to make use of tenant services to find another place to live.

Serving Notices

Maine law requires the landlord to make three good faith efforts to deliver the eviction notice to the renter. After three attempts the landlord can mail the notice or leave it at the rental unit. Avoiding the landlord to avoid getting the notice will not prevent the eviction.

Stopping an Eviction

In the case of an eviction due to overdue rent, paying the rent satisfies the notice and stops the eviction. Otherwise there are three basic defenses that can be used in an attempt to stop an eviction.

  • Improper Notice: If you can prove your landlord did not follow the regulations regarding giving your notice of an eviction, the court will dismiss the eviction proceeding. However, your landlord can start the eviction process all over again. This will buy you some time to find another place to live.
  • Unsafe or Unfit Housing: If you have notified your landlord of unsafe conditions in your home and he refused to fix them, he may be found in violation. The judge may reduce your rent or reduce the amount of back rent you are required to pay until the landlord fixes the problems in your apartment.
  • Retaliation:  If you believe your landlord is trying to evict you because you joined a tenant's union, reported unsafe conditions to the local municipality or filed a discrimination suit, you may be able to stop the eviction on the grounds of retaliation.

Following the terms of your lease and paying your rent on time is the best way to avoid an eviction. According to Landlord Guidance, your landlord cannot have your utilities turned off, change the locks or enter your apartment and claim your belongings even if you owe back rent. He must follow the proper procedures to evict you. If you think you are being wrongfully evicted, contact a lawyer immediately.